Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Heart London

For starters, there is a direct flight from the Raleigh/Durham airport to London Heathrow.  That's right, little ol' RDU will put you on a plane that goes straight to London.  

So even before it began,  my five-days-and-five-nights trip to Oxford and London was special.  And after deplaning from the so-empty-you-had-your-own-row flight, the trip continued to be pretty freakin' wonderful:

- There was the all female cricket team playing in a park in Oxford.

- The two glorious meals of fish 'n chips, both consumed on the patio of a pub.  (Why did I stop at two?)

- Can't leave out the cheese baguette sandwiches (four total) from Pret a Manger that  I consumed during the trip.  (And by cheese, I mean brie with basil and tomato, goat cheese with roasted asparagus, and cheddar with pickled, almost chutney-like relish.)

- Or the the two soft serve vanilla ice cream Flake cones I ate, the softest, most artificial vanilla ice cream with a truly delicious flaky piece of chocolate sticking out of the side.  (Why did I stop at two?  Especially when, as my dear friend Claire pointed out, it's kind of like eating air.)

- And even on the way home, the extra special-ness of the trip continued with my first alcoholic beverage on a plane.  

(The story is that the little TV screen near me wasn't working and the flight attendants felt bad and comped me with some Baileys.  Little did they know that if I angled my head a certain way and squinted, I could still make out most of "Marley and Me."  Yes, it was god-awful.  Yes, I cried at the end.  Blame it on the 37,000 feet between me and the ground.)

And these are just a few of the things from my how-the-hell-did-I-get-so-lucky trip; the full report would include my first formal high table dinner at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, visiting the mecca that is Top Shop in London, and consuming the delicious mini cheese pizza they served on the plane ride home.

But, of course, like every trip, and like pretty much everything in life, it's all about the people that you're with:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Only Time I Wished I Owned a Shotgun

So, like all adolescents, the three baby birds that survived went through a kind of awkward stage; their still-forming spiky feathers and poop-covered nest just weren't that cute.   But then they crossed over into the fluffy feather stage and looked all cuddly.  

And then they were gone.

A real empty nest felt sad.  But, as Willie said, you just gotta hope you raised them right and let them go.

Literally the very next day, as I was watering the hanging flower plants, there in the yellow one, just two plants down from the original Home Depot nest, was a brand new nest.  

I couldn't believe my luck!  Not only was my front porch a birdie nesting ground, but I was going to get another chance to watch the miracle of nest to egg to bird.  And I was going to do it even better this time: daily photographs, proper research -- I wasn't going to make the same mistakes I made with my first baby birds.

Like the original, this one grew into a five-egg nest, complete with white fluffy cotton-looking padding for the eggs.

This picture was taken Thursday morning at about 8:00 AM.

An hour later, the nest would be empty.

That morning, as I was opening my front door to leave for work, I noticed a large crow perched on the roof of the porch near the yellow hanging flower plant. The big black crow promptly flew off as I closed the door and locked it behind me.

I made my way down the stairs to my car and looked back up at porch.

Before I knew what was happening, the crow flew back, perched on the yellow hanging flower plant, grabbed an egg in his mouth and flew away.  The mother bird, who had been near the crow the first time I saw him, flew off behind him, chirping and trying to stop him.  

My mouth and my stomach both dropped.  

I rushed back up to the nest and looked inside: only two eggs.

I wanted to cry and scream and go find the crow and shoot it and remain guard in front of the nest to prevent any more egg snatching.  

But there was nothing I could do.  After waiting around for a little bit and feeling more distraught than I ever imagined I could feel about birds' eggs, I left for work.

At my desk, I couldn't get the image of the egg in the crow's beak or the sight of the mother bird flying off next to the crow out of my head.  Feeling sickened and helpless, I googled as many things about crows and protecting birds' eggs as I could find.  I wanted to find something to make me feel better, to remind me that this was all a part of nature, as cruel as it was.  I even started looking up how often birds lay eggs, hoping I'd get lucky again, although I knew now that my porch was not safe.  Finding nothing reassuring, I resorted to looking up sites about birds and emotions, wondering how the mother bird was coping.

When I got home, I didn't even want to look in the nest.  When I eventually did, sure enough, it was empty.

Since then, I've thought about plastic owls and scarecrows and quitting my job to become a full time protector of the nest.  

A musical montage would include me looking at birds on my walks and picturing their healthy successful growth from egg to baby to independent bird.

And my fifth grade response to the whole thing continues: I officially hate crows.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

As Long as It's a Team Called the Bulls

Sandwiched in between a triple overtime hells-yeah-mother-fucker Chicago Bulls win on Thursday night and a what-the-hell-happened-to-you second half of the Chicago Bulls loss on Saturday night, I went to two Bulls games here in Durham.  The Durham Bulls, subject of one of the greatest baseball movies ever made.  And as far as minor league baseball games go, it delivered on the good old fashioned fun.

Yeah, so maybe the Bulls lost 14 - 1 to the Columbus Clippers on Friday night.  And maybe I didn't stick around to see what the final score was in their loss to the Clippers on Saturday afternoon.

But it's a pretty darn cool park.  When a Bulls player hits a homerun, the eyes of the bull in the outfield light up, his tail wags and steam comes out of his nose.   There's also one of those manual score boards in the outfield, which, of course, pulls on my Wrigley Field heart stings.  

The hot dog was tasty, the pretzel was fresh, the beer choices were a-plenty (Fat Tire at a ballpark?), and my cousin, Ethan, confirmed that the pink flavor of the double flavor cotton candy is pretty much to die for.  There was even an impressive fireworks show after the game on Friday night -- set off right in the middle of the field, complete with about five exciting finales.

While it's no St. Paul Saints game (the hands down best minor league game to go to -- it is just an all around hilarious experience, stand up comedian announcer and all), and while I really do miss living in a place with professional sports (sorry, Carolina Hurricanes, hockey will never be my bag), it's not bad for a $7 ticket.

In fact, when the weather is nice, and the beer cup is full, and you can ride your bike there in four minutes, you can pretty much take me out to the Durham Bulls ball game anytime ol' time.